The Milwaukee area is abuzz with new destinations for families to explore. Here are five kid-friendly places to check out before summer is over:
1. Discovery Trail at Retzer Nature Center
The Discovery Trail at Retzer Nature Center in Waukesha is brand new, thanks to contributions from the Waukesha Rotary Club Foundation, the Friends of Retzer Nature Center, and funding from Community Development Block grants.
The project has revitalized Retzer’s old Adventure Trail with expanded accessibility into nature for all ages and abilities.
The new Discovery Trail includes a variety of “Exploration Stations” for outdoor education, sensory-based play experiences, and STEM activities for families and school groups.
This multi-phase project refreshed the original ‘Adventure Trail’ with the reconstruction of the accessible path and an expanded connection to the accessible boardwalk.
Other additions include a gateway feature, a stone seat wall gathering space, exploration stations – including insect, wood, animal tracks, and eagle nest – as well as a habitat free-play area, boulder scramble, and native plant observation areas.
Phase 3 Wish List items include an interactive Nature Sensory Station, a Wing Span Station, Spider Web Station, Education Signage, and native plants restoration.
2. New “Narwhal” Exhibit at Milwaukee Public Museum
There’s a new special exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum, and it will have you diving deep into the world of nature’s most mystical sea-creature.
‘Narwhal: Revealing an Arctic Legend‘ is now open and will run through October 2nd, 2022. It was created by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
The narwhal is a mammal that is part of the whale lineage and lives near the Arctic Circle, where climate changes pose a challenge to their survival.
With its impressive spiral tooth (not a horn), the elusive narwhal has inspired art, legend, and cultural practice for centuries.
Today, Inuit knowledge coupled with scientific research help us better understand narwhals, the changing Arctic, and global climate change as a whole.
At this limited engagement exhibition, visitors will experience a life-sized male narwhal model, engaging digital and physical interactives that will appeal to all generations, and Arctic soundscapes coupled with panoramic landscapes.
Guests will learn about evolving perceptions about the “unicorn of the sea,” from their depiction in the 1500s as angry sea monsters to their status as icons of pop culture today.
Stop by Thursdays and Fridays in July and August from 10:30 – 2:30 to visit the museum’s Educator Cart, where you’ll learn the differences between antlers, horns, tusks, and teeth.
Guests can also take a free Hidden MPM Docent Tour on Saturdays at 11:00 on the First and Third Floor to learn more about marine mammals.
Buy your tickets here. The exhibit is free to members.
3. Dragonfly Pond and Molly’s Pond Now Open at Schlitz Audubon
This summer, families can take a hike to two of Schlitz Audubon Nature Center’s newest wetlands: Dragonfly Pond and Molly’s Pond. They are just a short hike from the main building. (See the map here.)
The two ponds were created in 2019 as part of the Stormwater Wetland and Ravine Restoration Project.
They both protect surrounding habitats and offer a refuge for native plants, amphibians, and waterfowl.
In the Spring, Shlitz Audubon’s volunteer wetland monitors discovered blue-spotted salamanders in Molly’s Pond, which are indicative of a healthy aquatic environment.
Now, a variety of native species like painted turtles, green frogs, bullfrogs, and aquatic plants have already begun to flourish there.
While hiking the new ponds, families can look for:
Tadpoles: On warm, sunny days, families can look for tadpoles in shallow waters, who may be swimming close to the surface in their hunt for insects, or resting in mud.
Frogs: From June through early August, you can listen closely for frogs singing. The bullfrog’s mating call is a deep ribbit, whereas the green frog makes a sound that sounds like the twang of a banjo.
Dragonflies: Hikers can also keep an eye out for the green darner dragonfly with bright green and blue bodies. The first batch of dragonflies transform into adults in early summer, and there is a second wave in September.
Both ponds are just a short hike from the main building.
4. Gorilla Trek Virtual Reality Experience at the Zoo
Gorilla Trek Virtual Reality Experience, a fully-immersive and dynamic exhibit, is the newest attraction and now open at the Milwaukee County Zoo.
The Milwaukee County Zoo is the first zoo in the country to unveil this Experience — a 360‑degree live action virtual reality film with motion platform seating, to give an unprecedented look at one of nature’s most intriguing and endangered animals — mountain gorillas in their natural habitat of Rwanda.
Take a seat in a motion platform and put on a virtual reality headset, transporting you to the mountains and jungle of Rwanda. Move your head up, down, and all around to see more of your surroundings. Then, move your head back as a gorilla family comes to meet you face to face. The gorillas are so close that you can see the tiniest details of their hair, to the point you can almost feel it.
“We are thrilled to partner with Immotion to offer this groundbreaking virtual reality experience to our visitors,” says Zoo Director Amos Morris. “This one-of-a-kind experience is yet another means for us to engage guests to get interested and involved in the conservation of species and develop empathy for animals. It’s the Zoo’s hope that this stunning presentation on mountain gorillas will not soon be forgotten by all those who see it.”
Before the film, explore the interactive pre-show, including videos of gorilla behavior, an in-depth comparison of human and gorilla anatomy, and a quiz that matches your personality with one of the gorillas featured in the Experience. No mountain gorillas currently live in human care, so this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
During your journey, you’ll venture with world-renowned primatologist, Dr. Tara Stoinski of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, 10,000-feet up into the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. There, you’ll set out on foot to go deep into the forest and witness the behaviors of mother and baby gorillas and the drama that unfolds when a subordinate male vies for leadership with the troop’s alpha silverback.
5. Miller Farms
Miller Farms in Cedarburg is truly a hidden gem – they don’t even have a website yet!
They are open for sunflower picking and photo opps. You’ll find them in Cedarburg at the corner of Highway 60 and Granville Road.
They recently added their “Terry Rexman” statue to the sunflower fields.
This farm is located near Wayne’s Drive-in if you want a cool treat after your sunflower picking.
Check their Instagram page for the latest updates.